I want to comment on the accessibility, player diversity, and barrier to entry topics trending around the MMOsphere.
The idea that free-to-play MMO’s are the only way to be competitive in today’s market is inaccurate. I laugh when I read that an MMO is going F2P to appeal to a wider audience or because of some marketing spin about letting players spend their own way — whatever SOE’s line is these days. It’s more accurate to say that going F2P is the only way to be competitive if your game isn’t very good. That’s not to say there aren’t good F2P games, just that you will never see a successful Pay-to-Play game go free in its prime.
A subscription is only a barrier to entry if your isn’t good enough. I agree with Syncaine that free garbage is still garbage. If you have the best game out there, or the most popular, people are going to pay a subscription fee and that $15 isn’t going to be an issue. GW2’s Lead Producer Chris Whiteside said it best, “The best quality MMO is going to pull customers towards it.” [Source] Chris also brought up a good point that as more and more games go F2P, the competition will increase and new problems will arise for this business model.
GW2 charging a $60 box price with no sub is irrelevant. WoW charging a subscription of $15 is irrelevant. SWTOR going F2P is irrelevant. I don’t care what any of them cost. I care about whether or not the game is fun and worth playing. SWTOR ultimately wasn’t worth my time, and making it free isn’t going to change the bottom line. I never batted and eye at WoW’s $15 subscription because the game has kept me entertained with an extreme level of quality for years; The subscription was not even a factor in my decision to stop playing. GW2’s fate lies in the game, not the price or the amount of feedback they can get from an increased number of diverse players.
People are going to play the better game, and no price, zero or otherwise, will make much difference in the end.